Day at the races when royal couple went public

For a watching world, that day at Ludlow in 1980 was the public beginning of it all.

Because when Lady Diana Spencer came to Ludlow races on Friday, October 24, that year, it was the first time that she and Prince Charles had been seen together in public.

And while she attracted much media attention, this was before the no-holds-barred media madness which she was to endure later.

Nobody took much notice of Lady Diana's friend and companion, as hardly anybody knew who she was.

However, she was to become a major part of the story. She was Camilla Parker Bowles.

A photo of Diana taken on that day by Shropshire Star photographer Malcolm Rouse was to go around the world and has been republished by various publications many times since.

The big draw at the races was the royal rider, Prince Charles, who was riding his own horse Allibar in the £1,200 Clun Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase.

Lady Diana, who was 19, was described by the Shropshire Star report of the day as an "elegant blonde" before going on rather ungallantly to call her "the latest in a long line of royal girlfriends."

She had "watched the prince playing polo and fished with him at Balmoral in recent months."

But what the world was soon to learn, and her trip to watch him ride at Ludlow was to confirm, was that this was not just another relationship.

Lady Diana, who was dressed in a green coat and tartan tights, leapt up and down as the prince galloped home in his three-mile race. A broad grin on her face, the blushing teenager was first to the rails of the unsaddling enclosure as he led Allibar in.

He had come in a creditable second in a field of 12 in only his second race over fences. His winnings were £265.

The Shropshire Star's photographic team covering the event was Malcolm, who is these days a freelance photographer in Exeter, and Tony Adams, who now runs a PR company in Shropshire.

Malcolm's picture of Lady Diana resting her head on the rails was the immediate photographic hit, but photos Tony took showing Di with the unrecognised Camilla were also to have far-reaching significance, which was not of course realised at the time.

Malcolm remembers: "A photographer pal of mine from London was there and said that Charles' new girlfriend was around. We went off looking for her and found her wandering around with Camilla. We chased her a little bit, through a building, and everywhere. She was trying to evade us.

"She went towards the rails and then just had her head down, stood there and didn't move. She was getting fed up with us and was trying to hide her face from us, but it made the best picture of the day. She then suddenly disappeared and we didn't see her again.

"The picture went in the Shropshire Star and then other papers asked for it. It has gone around the world. It often appears in the Daily Mail and was in the Daily Mail magazine a short while ago. A friend of mine has seen it in America.

"At the time I didn't know exactly who she was, but knew her name was Diana and she was from quite a wealthy family. I hadn't seen her before. It was the first time she had been out publicly with Charles, which made it all the more interesting."

However, he did not see the pair actually close together at the event.

Diana had been with two people, one of whom Malcolm did not know, and Camilla, who was unknown to the general public, but as it happened not unknown to Malcolm.

"Funnily enough yes, I did know Camilla. Before I came to the Shropshire Star I had been on an assignment to try to get some pictures of her outside Oxford because she was supposedly going to be Charles' girlfriend."

Later Malcolm was to photograph Charles and Diana on official occasions but sensed all was not well.

"I photographed them in Wales and when they went to the Eisteddfod and you could almost get the sense that she was looking at him, but he was not overly interested her."

Tony recalls: "We both took lots of pictures. I was covering the actual race meeting, and Malcolm got a fantastic picture of her leaning on the rails as she watched Prince Charles, which was used everywhere.

"I got some good pictures of her with Camilla Parker Bowles. We didn't take any notice of her, and it was not until years later when we looked back at the pictures that we realised who this woman was who nobody knew at the time."

As for Diana, Tony said: "It was the first time we had actually seen her. There were not that many photographers there. We thought Prince Charles might be coming with some girl and all of a sudden she walked down to the members' enclosure with Camilla Parker Bowles. Then we realised that this girl in a green coat was the one.

"She was very, very shy, and we had to keep our distance. Times changed later but we are not the paparazzi and we treated them with a bit of respect.

"She was a very, very, smart young woman."

It was not to be the last time Diana was seen in Ludlow. Years later there were sightings of her browsing around antique shops in the town, and at one stage after her marriage break-up she was rumoured to be looking for a home in Herefordshire.

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